Sore throat symptoms may be rough. His saliva descends like sandpaper, each cough makes him grimace, and all he can think about is that the knot disappears in the back of the throat.
But to relieve the pain, you must first understand what is causing the sore throat: dry air, smoking, acid reflux, viral infections such as the flu or the common cold, and bacterial infections such as strep can cause a sore throat.
In general, a viral infection usually comes with other symptoms, such as muscle aches and fatigue, along with a sore throat, says Dr. Chester Griffiths, an otolaryngologist at the Providence Saint John Health Center in Santa Monica, California. With a bacterial infection, On the other hand, the pain is usually more focused on the throat and the pain tends to be quite intense, says Dr. Griffiths. You may also have severe pain when you swallow, along with a high fever.
Exposure to smoke, inhalation of dry air and acid reflux tend to feel "very different" from an infection, says Jason Abramowitz, MD, ear, nose and throat specialist at ENT and Allergy Associates. "Usually, patients don't feel so sick in general (and) the pain isn't that bad, either," he says.
The good news: drinking warm tea and sucking cough drops or zinc pills can usually soothe the throat irritation and inflammation that is causing your agony, says Brett Comer, MD, head and neck surgeon at the School of Medicine. the University of Kentucky.
Still, some of your favorite home remedies may be masking the pain, not really solving it. If you really want to get rid of a sore throat, look for these best over-the-counter cures the next time you feel sore.
1. Gargle with salt water, but avoid apple cider vinegar.
Saltwater is an excellent home remedy for a sore throat, as it can reduce swelling and soothe inflammation and irritation. It can also help attract infections or irritants to the throat surface, where your body is better able to treat them. Dissolve 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of warm water and gargle every hour or two, advises Mia Finkelston, MD, a Maryland-based family doctor who also treats patients through LiveHealth Online.
While you may have heard that gargling with apple cider vinegar has a similar effect, you should probably avoid this tactic for now, says Dr. Comer. "There is little doubt that apple cider vinegar has antibacterial and possibly antifungal properties in laboratory studies, but it is unknown whether or not this translates into help for viral or bacterial sore throat," he explains. "In addition, prolonged use of vinegar with tooth enamel presents significant problems: vinegar is acidic and repeated use can damage tooth enamel."
2. Drink extraneous fluids.
Those first swallows may not be pleasant. But just like icing on a sprained ankle can relieve pain and prevent swelling, drinking ice cream can numb your throat and soothe some of the inflammation that causes pain, says Dr. Finkelston.
3. Suck on an ice lolly.
If you get tired of drinking ice water, a paddle can be as effective in fighting inflammation in your throat. Just be sure to avoid citrus flavors that can trigger acid reflux and, in turn, make your symptoms worse.
4. Fight dry air with a humidifier.
Dry air can irritate the sore throat, prolonging the recovery time. Taking a steam shower or using a humidifier can return moisture to the air, relieving any discomfort. "The mucous membranes of the nose and throat love moisture," says Dr. Abramowitz. "The steam provides moisture and heat, which helps the vocal cords to calm down and decrease swelling." Moisture in the nose can also help eliminate mucus and dirt, which can be part of the problem, he adds.
Just be sure to clean your humidifier before turning it on. If left aside, a humidifier's water tank can generate bacteria and fungi, which are then pumped into the air, according to a security alert from the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSP). While this may not make your throat worse, it could cause flu-like symptoms or exacerbate allergies or asthma.
5. Skip the acidic foods.
Acid reflux, which occurs when acids produced by the stomach reach the throat, is a common cause of a sore throat, says Dr. Comer. That means that anything you do to stoke acid reflux could prolong or worsen your sore throat. For that reason, Dr. Comer recommends avoiding soft drinks, fried foods and citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons. Also, skip the food completely for an hour before bedtime. Eating before bedtime can promote reflux and heartburn.
6. Swallow antacids.
If you think acid reflux is to blame for your sore throat, taking antacids or other medications for reflux may help relieve pain, says Dr. Finkelston. As a first-line treatment, try an over-the-counter antacid such as Tums or Mylanta.
7. Drink herbal teas.
Turmeric is the fashion spice that you should definitely add to your diet. While some of its benefits, including its potential to prevent cancer or brain disease, require further study, its anti-inflammatory powers are well established and can help eliminate a sore throat, says Dr. Finkelston. Add some dashes to your tea or gargle with salt water.
Also try other teas if you prefer another flavor. "Many herbal teas have a positive immune effect and help our body fight infections," says Dr. Abramowitz. Recommend choosing a tea with echinacea; It has been shown to help boost your immune system. (Check out our favorite teas to soothe a sore throat here).
8. Cover and soothe your throat with honey.
There is a reason why honey is a popular ingredient in cough medicines and tea: it has antibacterial properties, covers the throat to reduce irritation and adds the necessary sweetness to your cup. Simply add a tablespoon to warm water or tea and drink until you feel your symptoms are relieved. Only keep this in mind if you have acid reflux: honey may be acidic "so it may not be ideal for throats that deal with a bad acid reflux," says Dr. Abramowitz.
9. Pop an analgesic.
Ibuprofen can help stop coughing and throat clearance that prevents a sore throat from healing, says Dr. Finkelston. Just be sure to take your ibuprofen with food and follow the dosage instructions on the label.
10. Try a nasal decongestant.
If part of the reason you breathe through your mouth is because your nose is clogged, use an over-the-counter medicated decongestant nasal spray or drops to open the airways, such as Afrin or Vicks. "Nasal decongestants work well to eliminate congestion in the nose and dry the mucus," says Dr. Abramowitz. "This can help you feel better and also decrease postnasal drip." But you should limit the use to one or two days.
11. Give your voice a rest.
If you developed a sore throat after screaming and cheering at a concert or sporting event, you are likely to tighten the vocal cords. The best treatment for any overworked muscle is rest. "It's similar to a sprained ankle: walking on it hurts," says Dr. Griffiths. "Moving the sore throat a lot when you talk also hurts."
However, that does not mean you should whisper. This actually tenses the voice rather than speaking. Instead, try to speak at a lower volume than normal until the hoarseness and pain decrease.
12. Throw away your toothbrush.
Believe it or not, your toothbrush may be perpetuating, or even causing, your sore throat. Bacteria accumulate in the bristles, and any gum injury during brushing injects these germs into your system. As soon as you start feeling bad, throw away your toothbrush. Often, that is enough to stop the disease. "Changing the toothbrush is often recommended for patients with bacterial throat infections to eliminate the spread of the infection," says Dr. Abramowitz.
If you get sick, replace your brush again when you start feeling better and when you feel completely good. That prevents you from reinfecting yourself.
13. Relieve your allergies.
Airborne allergies, such as pollen, indoor molds or dust mites, can cause chronic low-grade throat inflammation. "Allergies are a very common cause of postnasal drip that can cause a sore throat," says Dr. Abramowitz. To start, try taking an over-the-counter allergy medicine that contains cetirizine hydrochloride, such as Zyrtec or Claritin. Even if that seems to help, "it is a good idea to control your allergies so you know what you are facing," says Dr. Abramowitz.
14. Take the time to recharge.
If you are super stressed and exhausted, your body's immune system will have more difficulty with the recovery process, so rest a bit! Time in bed or away from the usual stressors of life, such as work, caring for children and cleaning the house, can help recharge your immune system, says Dr. Finkelston. Try to sleep at least 7 to 9 hours a night.
15. Take a steam shower.
The steam helps moisten your airways, says Dr. Griffiths. "Any humidification can relieve symptoms," he says. Tissues in the throat produce mucus under normal circumstances and, when they swell, they can dry and scratch, he explains. Moisture can help add some moisture to the area, easing the process.
16. Raise your head when you sleep.
This helps in several ways. When you lie on your back, the pressure on the neck increases and may exacerbate the symptoms in the throat, says Dr. Griffiths. "Leaning helps you relieve the pressure and can make you feel better," he says. If you have problems with acid reflux, raising your head can also work with gravity to help keep stomach acids where they belong, in the stomach.
When to see a doctor about a sore throat
Strep throat is an extremely painful bacterial infection that can appear suddenly. Fortunately, the vast majority of bacterial infections, including streptococcus, generally respond well to a cycle of an appropriate antibiotic. Because sore throat can have many causes, some symptoms must be evaluated by a doctor. These include:
Severe, prolonged or recurrent sore throat
Trouble breathing, swallowing or opening your mouth.
Joint pains, ear pain or a lump in the neck.
Rash or fever above 101 ° F
Hoarseness that lasts 2 weeks or more.
White spots on the throat (look with a flashlight)
Blood in saliva or phlegm
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